The writer of the following letter is a former public librarian in British 
Columbia and now the co-owner of Canadas largest and most successful 
childrens bookstore. She showed me the letter because we are family, and I 
asked her permission to post it to Hasafran. If any of you have an 
opportunity to preview the book she describes below, I hope you will join 
her in asking the publisher to reconsider its release.

Marga Hirsch

-----Original Message-----
From: Phyllis Simon [mailto:[EMAIL PROTECTED]
Sent: Friday, July 25, 2003 11:14 AM
Subject: Macmillan letter

Dear Ms. Price:

I am the co-owner of Canadas largest and most successful childrens 
bookstore called Kidsbooks.  Part of what has made us thrive is our 
commitment to promoting excellence in literature, and in bringing to our 
customersattentions books they might not otherwise encounter.

During twenty years of business I have actively promoted many Macmillan 
titles, including those written by Elizabeth Laird.  In fact, in my opinion 
her recent book The Garbage King is an outstanding novel that I have 
presented at several teachersevents as one of the best books of the year.

However, when the HB Fenn representative showed me the advance flyer for A 
Little Piece of Ground written by Elizabeth Laird in conjunction with a 
Palestinian writer, alarm bells sounded in my head almost immediately.  Why 
was I concerned?  I worried that the book might be decidedly one-sided, 
given the author collaboration and the hype in the flyer (Macmillans 
decision to rush publication, the endorsement by Childrens Laureate Michael 
Morpurgo, and the ludicrous comment by the book editor).

I therefore asked for an advance reading copy before I placed my order.

I hoped Id not feel the need to take it one step further, and question the 
wisdom of it being published altogether.  After reading the book, I find 
the situation is actually much worse than I had imagined it might be, and I 
am left with a profound sense of shock and disgust at the irresponsible 
decision to publish what I feel is a racist, inflammatory and totally 
one-sided piece of propaganda at a time when efforts are being made to 
resolve this conflict.  In fact, I am certain that neither Macmillan nor 
any other childrens publisher in the democratic world would ever agree to 
release a similar diatribe demonizing the Palestinians as this book 
vilifies the Israelis.

What is incomprehensible to me is that there is not even one mildly 
positive portrait of an Israeli in the entire book; the characters refer to 
suicide bombings, in which, need I remind you, children and innocent people 
are blown up, as bombing operations; in one scene, the protagonists father 
burns the Israeli flag to ashes while in contrast the Palestinian flag is 
used as the rallying point for the children in the story.  Israeli tanks 
even kill a kitten, for Gods sake!!  And these are just a few of the many 
obvious examples of single-sided misrepresentations of this extremely 
complex issue.

If this were a book for adults, I would say it could be biased, unfair, 
whatever.  In that case, the book would have to stand up to the scrutiny of 
reviewers and mature readers.  A Little Piece of Ground, however, is for 
children, the overwhelming number of whom clearly havent a clue about this 
conflict, and thus depend on books like this for the opinions they form 
about what goes on in the Middle East.  I can only imagine what they think 
after reading this blatant piece of hate-fomenting propaganda.

Although it is fashionable these days to excoriate the Israelis whilst 
championing the cause of the Palestinians, there surely is no doubt that 
there are many Israelis and Palestinians who work together and who respect 
each other.  Yet, these authors purposely chose not to include a single 
such peace-seeking character, not even a hint that such people exist, in 
this book.  You must ask yourself what agenda they have in choosing to 
paint so unbalanced a picture for children.  And what role does Macmillan 
end up playing in backing this totally misguided endeavor?

I urge you in the strongest possible terms to take a second look at A 
Little Piece of Ground before you take the irreversible step of releasing 
such a damaging book.

Sincerely yours,

Phyllis Simon

Co-Owner, Kidsbooks

Vancouver, Canada

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